Age of Empires II, a real-time strategy (RTS) game first released two decades ago, is enjoying a revival thanks to a Definitive Edition remaster. A lot has been reworked, including artwork, animations, civilizations, units, and balancing, but some time-worn strategies are still winning plenty of matches. The "Tower Rush" strategy is often vilified in the community, yet it's an efficient way of getting the jump on an opponent. Besides, ignoring the basics of the strategy won't help you defend against a player who starts building towers around your village. Let's take a look at what it takes to perform this move and how to counter.
Why Tower Rush?
The main goal of the Tower Rush is to begin building towers on key points of the enemy's base — think stone, gold, berries, and farms — to deny them of important resources before they have time to mount a proper defense. Watch towers can be built by all civilizations, though some, like Incas, Teutons, and Koreans, have bonuses that make them considerably stronger.
While the Tower Rush is incredibly effective when pulled off, it also has a high chance of going wrong, especially when the opponent knows how to counter properly. And, like any strategy, plans will no doubt have to be modified on the fly based on how your opponent reacts. In any case, if the strategy works at disabling your enemy's economy at the start of the game, they will often find it impossible to recover.
What's a basic Tower Rush build order?
There are plenty of variations of the Tower Rush, and you can take the following steps and rework them as you see fit and based on any civilization bonuses you encounter. At its core, the strategy focuses on scouting the enemy's location, mining the proper resources, and reaching Feudal Age as quickly as possible so that you can begin building towers. Let's take a look at a basic build order for this strategy.
- Immediately queue up as many villagers as possible in your Town Center (TC). Never let your TC idle.
- Have your scout expanding out in rings around your base. Find domesticated animals (like sheep) and wild animals (like boars) near your TC. Immediately send any found sheep back to your TC.
- Send two villagers (1, 2) to build one house. Leave enough space around your TC for farms.
- Send the other villager (3) to build a separate house.
- The new villager (4) created should begin harvesting sheep under the TC.
- Send villagers (1, 2, 3) to harvest sheep once they've built the houses. Harvest one animal at a time to prevent carcass decay which lowers the amount of harvestable food.
- Send new villagers (5, 6) created at the TC to harvest sheep. Keep your TC busy by queuing new villagers. If at any time you run out of food, research Loom at your TC.
- Send new villager (7) to build a lumber camp. Try to always build the camp against a large stand of trees for efficiency reasons. This is your main woodline, so try to build it near the back of your base.
- Send new villager (8) to chop wood at the lumber camp.
- Send new villager (9) to build a house near the first boar you plan to lure.
- Use villager (9) to lure a scouted boar back to your your TC. Have the villager attack the boar once at distance, then move the villager back to your TC. The boar will follow, and you can attack it with all villagers currently harvesting food. Try to time the boar lure so that there are no sheep being harvested when the boar arrives. Move as many food villagers as possible to harvest the boar.
- Send new villager (10) to harvest the boar. You should have 8 total villagers harvesting food.
- If your scout has found both huntable animals (boars) and most sheep, send it out to find the enemy's base. Once found, focus on locating important resources. This is where you'll want to focus your first towers.
- Send new villager (11) to build a mill directly adjacent to berries.
- Send the next 7 villagers (12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18) to harvest sheep and boar. Once the first boar has reached about half maximum food remaining, send a full-health villager out to lure the other boar that should be scouted near your TC.
- Choose to research Feudal Age at your TC.
Nailing the correct timing will take some practice, but you should find that most of the sheep and boar are gone around your TC. That's a good thing, as it frees up some villagers to mine stone and build towers. Once you've begun Feudal Age research, send five villagers previously gathering food to build a mining camp on stone. Send another six from food toward the enemy's base that you've already scouted. They are ready to build a tower once Feudal Age research is completed. Consider sending two more food villagers to chop wood. If you don't, send the first two newly created villagers in Feudal Age to chop wood.
Your first towers should focus on denying the enemy of wood and stone so that they cannot build their own towers. If you know where any enemy's woodline is located, attempt to build a tower out of sight but close enough to range the camp. The Tower Rush is all about surprising the enemy. Many people will build a tower on the other side of a stand of trees, making it harder for the enemy to attack the tower with villagers.
Back at your base, keep creating new villagers once Feudal Age research is complete. Move any villagers who were left on sheep and boars to berries. Once those are becoming scarce, begin building farms around your TC. Build a Blacksmith and research the Fletching technology as soon as possible to add firepower to your towers.
Once the first tower is built (or at about 80%), immediately begin building another tower with a villager within range of the first and within range of some other resource (if possible). The first tower will provide protective fire for your builders while the second tower goes up. Continue building towers that disrupt the enemy's economy, garrisoning your builders within if the enemy attempts to counterattack. With villagers inside towers, they will output more damage.
From here, you're free back at your own base to continue improving your economy. Keep your economy balanced, and make sure you have the right resources to continue making new towers and new villagers.
Quick-glance summary of Tower Rush steps
Once you've run through this strategy a couple of times, you might be looking for the basic steps in an easy-to-read format.
- Villagers (1, 2, 3) build houses then harvest sheep.
- Villagers (4, 5, 6) harvest sheep.
- Villager (7) build lumber camp.
- Villager (8) chops wood at lumber camp.
- Villager (9) builds house and lures boar.
- Villager (10) harvests boar.
- Villager (11) builds mill.
- Villagers (12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18) harvest sheep and boar.
- Research Feudal Age.
- Send five food villagers to mine stone.
- Send six food villagers to build towers.
What to do next?
Once you've reached Feudal Age and have built towers in the enemy's base, it's best to read the game and figure out the best route to take. With a focus always on keeping the economy balanced, you can push for a quick Castle Age time and drop a castle on the enemy as they're scrambling to deal with your towers.
The enemy should be somewhat crippled (if they've not completely given up already), so a push with a Feudal Age army is never a bad idea. Adding archers (who will also benefit from the Fletching tech) can help deal with any infantry the enemy send out to bash down the towers, and spearmen can help deal with any scouts.
If you foresee the game taking longer to finish (especially in the case of a team game), you might just want to begin booming your economy while the enemy deals with your towers in their base. Take the liberty to build multiple TCs once you hit Castle Age and pump out as many units as possible.
How to counter a Tower Rush
Seeing a tower or two go up on a big hill in front of your base is an awful feeling, especially when you're not expecting it and not ready to deal with the consequences. It happens more often than it probably should, and matches often devolve into a frustrating, broken mess. New players have an especially tough time dealing with the Tower Rush (or Trush as it is often called), but there are some ways to counter it.
Good scouting is the best way to counter a Tower Rush.
Starting with the basics, always try to build your main lumber camp on a stand of trees behind your base. This makes it tougher for the enemy to sneak a tower or two along your woodline. If your main stone and gold are near the front of your base, try building houses and a barracks in front of the resources to box out the enemy. Standard buildings work just as well as actual walls. This is easier on some maps and is often impossible on open maps. Still, having a barracks or stable ready to produce militia can help with destroying any towers in your base.
Good scouting can almost always warn you of an incoming Trush. If you see enemy villagers taking stone in Dark Age, it's a good sign they're on their way up to Feudal Age with towers in mind. And you might just spot a group of villagers moving forward toward your base.
If you spot the enemy just as they start building a tower, a common defense is to begin building your own tower within range. You're at your own home base with many more villagers than the attacker, so use that to your advantage. Get up your own tower at the same time or shortly after, garrison villagers inside, and focus fire the enemy's tower to bring it down. You can also use villagers or military units to attack the base of a tower without getting hit. This doesn't apply if the enemy has another tower in range, so it's best to go on the counterattack as quickly as possible. Keep in mind that once an enemy has researched the Murder Holes technique, towers can attack units directly below.
An enemy might build towers in a poor spot, especially if you've effectively boxed them out with buildings or walls. If your main resources aren't being hit too hard, you can plan a counterattack. As the enemy is building poorly placed towers near your base, continue with your own build order with a focus on military units. Scouts work incredibly well in this case, as they are quick and can attack the enemy at home (which is usually left undefended). Harassing villagers mining stone and chopping wood with three of four units is effective at causing resource shortages. When the enemy builds spearmen to defend against your scouts (or skirmishers to defend against your archers, etc.), just build the counter unit to defend. Continue counterattacking, keep the towers boxed out, and the enemy will soon retreat or completely resign.
No two Tower Rushes are ever the same, and strategies are constantly being tweaked to fit the game's meta. Have some tips of your own to share? Let us know in the comments section how you attack or defend against a Trush. And be sure to check out our Fast Castle guide for a far less controversial strategy to try out.
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